Friday, August 20, 2010

Back to School Service

If you think spending a summer week on the beach in California guarantees a sunburn, try La Selva Beach. Lots of happy memories were made during my childhood when we visited a family friend's beach house, but we often had to be creative with our time as the fog was stubborn and tried to ruin our vacation. The beach houses didn't have great television reception in those days, so we spent our time playing board games inside and building forts in the sand just outside the house. When the sun did come out, we screamed upon entering the chilly Pacific water but seeing blue sky encouraged us to stay in the surf until our lips began to change color. For a long-overdue family gathering a few summers ago, we rented some of those same beach houses where we had our favorite vacations in the 1970s.

Since my first thought of La Selva was "brrrr," I packed a few wetsuits and board games, with supplies for beach-side campfires and roasting marshmallows. It would be just like the good old days!
Except it couldn't; the houses are all now equipped with multiple televisions and stacks of DVDs, and kids no longer resort to board games for entertainment. We did have a mostly foggy week after the first day at La Selva, so it was challenging to keep everyone busy. With my idealistic views of what a beach vacation should be, I tried to rally my children and some of their cousins but finally gave in and let them stay up late a couple of nights watching videos. I figured they could get it out of their system, then they would be more willing to play board games with me and build camp fires. Except they weren't. The kids spent just enough time in the water to be tired and cold, then all they wanted was to cuddle up in front of the friendly t.v. set.

Finally, on our third day at La Selva I had to drive to Palo Alto and back, which caused me to realize that it was twenty degrees warmer and perfectly sunny just a few miles away on the other side of the mountains from the beach. I couldn't change the weather at our location, but I could bring back a little project for the kids to work on to make the week memorable and not accompanied by quite so many videos. I had seen a display at a favorite breakfast hangout, Hobee's, advertising a charity drive to gather backpacks with school supplies for needy kids of all ages: The Family Giving Tree. I knew my own children and their cousins could relate to this project, as our family had students in various levels of grade school, middle school, and high school.

When I brought back the request cards for a backpack from each family, the kids were pleased with the diversion at least. I assumed they would head to Walgreen's with parents or Grammie in tow to purchase the specified supplies, but they took it a step further and scoured the neighborhood at La Selva on a door-to-door donation request! With cash in hand and a little help from us parents, the cousins were able to assemble the backpacks within a day or two. They brought the bulging packs to me with labels affixed, "5th grade girl," or "10th grade boy." No longer did my children and their cousins look like fogged-in zombies with square eyes from too much television viewing; they had an unmistakable glimmer, the kind that comes from doing good works. Hopefully, La Selva will be a part of their conscious childhood memories, punctuated by the time they gave something back while on their summer vacation.

Check out these cool good works school supplies organizations and ideas!

  • San Jose/Silicon Valley Area: Sunday Friends Back to School Program, Yearly in August.
  • San Francisco Bay Area:
  • and Staples Back to School Drive:
  • National: AARP/Create the Good "Equipped to Learn" campaign:
  • Some individual backpack donation projects: /1-25-2006-87290.asp
  • Another backpack donation drive, this one in Florida:

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